The Soufan Group Morning Brief


MONDAY, APRIL 25, 2016

The Obama administration will send an additional 250 military personnel to Syria to assist rebel groups fighting ISIS, government officials confirmed on Sunday. The additional non-combat troops will reportedly include Special Operations forces as well as medical, intelligence, and logistics personnel. The deployment does not include any ground troops. This increases the number of U.S. forces in Syria to approximately 300. President Obama is expected to formally announce the deployment today while in Germany. Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, BBC

ABC: At Least 26 Killed as Fighting Rages in Syria's Aleppo
BBC: Syria conflict: Obama rules out ground troops for Syria
Boston Globe: In Damascus, an uneasy stability boosts Syria’s Assad
Washington Post: U.S. military doubles the number of civilians it admits killing in anti-ISIS fight

On Friday, a federal judge in Washington state said he would not dismiss a lawsuit brought by victims of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program. U.S. District Court Judge Justin L. Quackenbush allowed the case to proceed against two psychologists accused designing the torture program. This is the first time a federal judge has allowed a civil lawsuit against the CIA’s alleged torture program to proceed. Wall Street Journal, Guardian, The Hill

FBI vs. Apple: On Friday evening, the Justice Department dropped a court case against Apple to compel the company to help law enforcement authorities unlock an iPhone involved in a New York drug investigation. The government claimed that an individual had come forward and offered the passcode of the iPhone in question. Wall Street Journal

Gitmo: The House Armed Services Committee laid out the provisions of its annual defense bill on Friday, keeping the restriction against transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States. If passed, the bill would prohibit the Obama administration from relocating the remaining detainees to U.S. soil. The Hill

ISIS in Minnesota: A Minnesota man accused of recruiting for ISIS allegedly wanted to establish a human smuggling route into the United States through Mexico, according to court documents. Guled Ali Omar, who faces multiple charges including conspiracy to commit murder outside the U.S., reportedly told his associates he had “found a means of reaching Syria by going through Mexico.” International Business Times

Cyber Command: The U.S. military has begun cyberattacks against ISIS for the first time in an effort to disrupt the group’s ability to spread its message, recruit new followers, and conduct day-to-day operations. The U.S. military’s Cyber Command had previously focused primarily on countering threats from Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. New York Times

On Sunday, Yemeni forces, backed by troops from the United Arab Emirates, seized the port city of Al Mukalla from Al Qaeda fighters. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had been using Al Mukalla as a base for operations throughout southern Yemen. Reuters, New York Times

Iraq: Fighting between Kurdish troops and Iraqi Shiite forces killed at least 12 people on Sunday near the town of Tuz Khurmatu about 120 miles north of Baghdad. Tuz Khurmatu was liberated from ISIS control in 2014, but rival armed groups and militias have since fought for control and influence in the town. The town is home to a diverse population of Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen. Washington Post

Nigeria: The Nigerian army intercepted a suspected Boko Haram suicide bomber in northeastern village of Ummarari on Saturday, according to a military spokesman. The suspect died when he detonated explosives strapped to his body after he was stopped by Nigerian forces as he tried to enter the village. Bloomberg, AllAfrica

New York Times: Failure to Share Data Hampers War on Boko Haram in Africa

Iran: The U.S. Department of Energy will buy 32 metric tons of heavy water from Iran worth $8.6 million as part of last year’s landmark nuclear agreement, according to government officials. Republican leaders criticized the purchase, with House Speaker Paul Ryan claiming that the deal “subsidizes Iran’s nuclear program.” Wall Street Journal, Reuters

Australia: A 16-year-old boy was charged with one count of planning a terrorist act after he was arrested in Sydney on Sunday. The teenager is accused of plotting an attack on an Australian Veteran’s Day ceremony planned for Monday. He faces up to life in prison. Associated Press, BBC

United Kingdom: Two Britons and an Irishman were released from a Kurdish-controlled prison in northern Iraq on Sunday. The three men had been fighting against ISIS alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and were arrested for illegally crossing the Syrian border into Iraq. Guardian, The Independent

Wall Street Journal: Two British Men Sentenced to Life for Terrorism Plot
The U.S. can’t afford to end its global leadership role: “In the 21st century, oceans provide no security. Nor do walls along borders. Nor would cutting off the United States from the international economy by trashing trade agreements and erecting barriers to commerce,” write Ivo Daalder and Robert Kagan in The Washington Post. “Instead of following the irresponsible counsel of demagogues, we need to restore a bipartisan foreign policy consensus around renewing U.S. global leadership.”

Should America Do Less?: “The reflex to be ‘caught trying’ is ennobling and very much part of the American can-do spirit—especially when set against Obama’s much-criticized ‘don’t do stupid stuff’ mantra against taking action,” writes Aaron David Miller in The Atlantic. “Since leaving government in 2003 and watching U.S. foreign policy under both Republicans and Democrats ever since, I’m no longer as convinced as I was that ‘doing something’ is better than nothing, particularly if the ‘something’ being done isn’t well thought through.”

Better the Saudis We Know: “Despite the surface tensions, King Salman and Prince Mohammed are by temperament and conviction deeply pro-American. It would be a desperately wasted opportunity for Washington not to take advantage of this,” write Bernard Haykel and Steffen Hertog in The New York Times. “As unpalatable as cooperation with the kingdom might be for some, cutting it adrift is worse. Whatever the resentments, neither side has a realistic alternative to the other.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Fight Pivots to Al-Qaeda in Yemen

The Center on National Security at Fordham Law will host a full-day conference “Hindsight: Reflections on 15 years of The War On Terror” on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The event is currently full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist please send an email here.


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